Duncan v. Vassaur

1976 OK 65, 550 P.2d 929



The fee simple title to property held in joint tenancy by a husband and wife vests in the husband upon the death of the wife. A joint tenant can terminate the joint tenancy by any act which is inconsistent with its continued existence. 


A husband and wife were joint tenants in a property. In 1971, the wife shot and killed her husband. After being charged with first degree manslaughter for killing her husband, the wife and now widow, conveyed the involved property to her father. The father sought action to quiet the title to the property and the administrator of the husband's estate claimed ownership of one-half the property. The trial judge ruled in favor of the father of the widow. The administrator of the husband's estate asserted that based on the Oklahoma "slayer statute," the widow was not entitled to claim full ownership of the property since the slayer statue asserts that anyone who is convicted of murder or manslaughter in the first degree under the laws of this State shall inherit from such person.


Is the father entitled to the full property?




The court held that the most equitable solution was to terminate the joint tenancy and the terminated one-half of the property would go to the heirs of the deceased and the one-half of the property to the murderer or her heirs when deceased. Therefore, the father could not be considered an innocent purchaser for a valuable consideration, without knowledge that his daughter had murdered her husband at the time of the execution and delivery of the deed. Moreover, the defendant was not able to produce compelling evidence that he was unaware of his daughter's crime of murder at the time the deed was delivered and executed.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.